Quotable Country – 02/22/15 Edition

Click the bullet after each quote to visit the source.

You can ask people in the building, and I can be quoted several times a day, “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” Again I can’t think of one star, much less superstar in country music, who wasn’t broken by country radio. It’s just a fact. That’s where the active audience is. That’s where they go to listen to it. People talk about, “It’s a media act. It’s a groundswell. We’re going to build it virally.” That’s all nice, but I defy you to tell me one act that made it big without country radio.
— Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton to The Tennessean.

Tomorrow is Sunday and I know a lot of people don’t have to work, so if there’s not a lot of drunk people leaving here I’m gonna be really pissed.
— Jason Aldean to the crowd at his Nashville show. By all means, let’s get more drunk people out there on the icy roads.

I learned so much from him, because he was a professional songwriter for a long time. He has almost like an athletic ability to make songs happen. I had a few ideas that I threw at him. While I’m trying to clumsily explain my ideas, he’s nodding his head silently and playing the guitar, patiently waiting for me to stop talking, and then starts singing a song back to me based on what I’ve been talking about. He’s really good. […] He’s just a really, really kind, nice guy. I respect him so much.
— J.D. McPherson (to Jewly Hight) on Eric Church.

Well, he has a completely unique vocal style. He’s as much a stylist as Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra or any of these people who have a totally unique presentation. Plus, I like his songs. It’s just the right stuff for the right time in the right place. When he was making those records, John Anderson really stood out. I think he’s the coolest and he’s always been rocking that beard! He looks like he came out of a swamp on one of those boats with the propellers on the back and started the show.
— J.D. McPherson on John Anderson.

There are all these things where you’ve really gotta know where the music comes from or you can’t really do right by it, you know? So all of that combined, I don’t really know of any other way to look at music now. That’s how I approach it: “Who did it first? Why did they do it? Why do I wanna do it?” I just ask all these questions before I start singing the song.
— Rhiannon Giddens (to Jewly Hight) on interpreting older songs.

The essential thing on all of these recordings is Campbell’s voice. Straight through to his last recordings, Campbell sings with a strong, rangy tenor that manages somehow to be both ordinary and remarkable: even when we’ve listened to that voice for decades, there remains something a bit indistinct about it, but in a way that feels more universal than faceless. On the rare occasions when we know he’s singing about his own life, as on the grim silver lining of “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” the effect reaches beyond himself toward an anxious American audience—particularly, in this case, toward those baby-boomer fans who have aging parents and who aren’t getting any younger themselves. “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” lets Campbell do once again what, at his best, he’s always done: worry intensely about what his audience is worried about.
— David Cantwell for The New Yorker: “Saying Goodbye to the First Good Ol’ Boy of American Pop.” Tim McGraw will sing “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” on the Oscars tonight.

I have to say I really like actual Country music. The kind the makes me think and feel. Nice.
— Randy Houser, posting about Ashley Monroe on Facebook.

Ashley Monroe is one of the few out there making REAL country. You make it sometimes too, Randy. Anything Goes and Like A Cowboy, for example. Some of your stuff is just as bad as Florida Georgia Line though. I hope you ditch the sellout crap and stay true to the music. You have an incredible voice, don’t waste it!
— Fan comment on above post.

Eight country songs from 2015 that should make fans proud of the genre
— Grady Smith rounded up some mainstream good’uns for The Guardian.

Singing from the POV of a father who has realized that his son has settled for the same dead-end job that he long ago settled for, Isbell digs into the very Southern notion of “getting above your raising” with real empathy and self-deprecating humor. When he sings, “And don’t let ‘em take who you are, boy/And don’t try to be who you ain’t/And don’t let me catch you in Kendale/With a bucket of wealthy man’s paint,” it isn’t an admonishment or cautionary tale but a parent’s wish for things to be better for his child. With “Outfit,” Isbell knocked it out of the park on one of the first songs anyone ever heard from him, announcing himself as a lyricist of remarkable depth and perspective, armed with a narrative voice that is uniquely Southern and a poetic way with a turn-of-phrase.
— Jonathan Keefe, in a nice Jason Isbell Starter Kit for Country Universe.

Q: … But bluegrass isn’t really part of the Texas tradition. Where do you see bluegrass fitting into the state’s musical milieu?
A: I don’t! (laughs) As a matter of fact one of my lines onstage is, “I know Texans know everything about everything, but they don’t know shit about bluegrass!”
— Robert Earl Keen, promoting his new bluegrass(ish) album.

I thought, ‘Oh great, so you write this sort of existential crisis album and now it’s going to be death. Who’s going to be interested in that?’ That conversation in my mind takes about 30 seconds and then it’s, ‘Yeah, but that’s what’s going on, so you’re going to be dealing with it.’ It’s not like you sit down and say, ‘I’m going to write 11 songs about death.’ You write the songs and then they manifest themselves. Themes become apparent. It’s not really my choice. It was just hanging around and it’s a really interesting subject. It’s the big ones, love and death — what else you got? I think I’m in a unique position to be able to not give a shit what people think. Who’s going to stop me?
— Gretchen Peters on following Hello Cruel World with Blackbirds. She’s on a roll.

I’m at the point where my first instinct is the best. You start off mimicking other songwriters and hit songs; I had to get to the point where I gave up on doing that. I tried to chase a little of what was hot on the radio, and then I stopped dong that. What happened is I fell into a group songwriters (in Nashville) who encouraged that (quest for originality), My instincts are very traditional country. That’s what I know best and where my heart beats. So when I fell into this group of writers who didn’t encourage me to ‘pop’ it up, I started writing melodies that came naturally to me, like ‘Hold My Hand’.
— Brandy Clark on coming into her own.

I was in St. John with Kenny writing ‘Wild Child’ and on the plane home, he said, ‘I feel like we have a lot of good songs, but we don’t have a first single.’ And he was looking through his e-mails and he was like, ‘Oh, here’s a song that you sent me a while back that I never listened to.’ He didn’t get to the first chorus, he pulled his headphones off and said, ‘This is the song, it’s going to be the single, this is the song.’
— Shane McAnally on how Chesney came to cut “American Kids.”

[Family Tree is] a great record, and it’s a Sugar Hill record. I got to meet Darrell Scott, and he signed that record for me. I was just starting out at that point, and he was telling me, ‘You don’t try to write hit songs; you just write songs, and occasionally you knock one out of the park.’ He wrote on there, ‘To Corey, your songs, your way, your time. Darrell Scott.’ I’ve carried that [sentiment] with me.
— Corey Smith, whose first album on Sugar Hill Records arrives June 9.

We’ve been promoting this record, and we’ve been going hardcore where maybe the major label artist has a lot of people posting pictures and posting comments. That’s me. That’s me this morning waking up seeing that my record is No. 2 on the iTunes country chart, taking a screen shot of that and posting and thanking God for blessing me.
From day one it was like, guess who came up with the album art cover? Me. Guess who wrote 12 out of the 14 songs? Me. I’m sitting there unwrapping CDs at 2 o’clock in the morning and signing them.
— Aaron Watson (The Underdog) on doing it independently.

It started back when I was doing side work for Billy Joe Shaver. After you ride many miles in the car together, sometimes Billy Joe says, “Let’s hear some of your work.” So I played him some songs. I didn’t want to, but you can’t really say no to the person who’s writing your checks—or to Billy Joe Shaver—so I let him hear it. He said, “You should really do that. Go be a songwriter.” I didn’t think too much of it at the time. I was mostly hoping that he wasn’t trying to fire me. But after a while, I starting thinking, yeah, that’s what I want to do. […] I had written some songs with Thrift Store, but it was never an idea that I could do it on my own, solo, until Billy Joe told me to. He even said, “There’s no loyalty in side work. This week, fiddle is cool, but next week, it might be a dobro, and then where will you be?”
— Amanda Shires on getting a kick in the pants from Billy Joe Shaver.

Who are these people?
Daniel: Jenny Mommy and the Mommy Babies.
Joanna: The Woodshed Quartet.
Alana: The Meemaws and Peepaws.
Joanna: Easy Road Travis and the Easy Road Allstars.
Daniel: The Chippewa County Electric Jamboree & Traveling Medicine Hour.
— BuzzFeed staffers reacting to photo of Little Big Town, for a post titled “Country Music Explained By People Who’ve Never Heard It.”

And so it continues — once again some big city folks have decided it would be fun to make jokes about how backward and unimportant country music is.
— CMT’s Chris Parton, reacting to said post with uncharacteristic irritability.

… I’ve been to more Garth Brooks shows than anybody…
— Garth Brooks, naturally.

Performing and singing and playing an instrument and running a business — all that shit is easier than writing a good song. That’s the thing that impresses me most when I see an act or hear a record, is if I can remember one hook or one line. … It’s not for me to decide who’s good and who isn’t. But that’s what I care about: a really great song, a timeless song, a song that can be done in any arrangement or style. Songwriting is the hardest thing for sure.
— Brian Whelan, previously a multi-instrumentalist in Dwight Yoakam’s band.

It looked like something off of Mars. I had no idea what they were doing, who they were, why they were doing what they were doing.
— Statler Brother Harold Reid on tuning in for a few minutes of the recent Grammy Awards.

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  1. Sabra says

    Gary Overton: “You can’t be a success without Nashville.”

    Aaron Watson: “I sold more records than Kanye this week.”*

    Alrighty then.

    *He said this earlier today on Facebook, and I believe he’s talking about iTunes only, but still.

  2. the pistolero says

    Also, Sturgill Simpson has sold 100,000 copies of his latest album (and has been basically forced to go from clubs to theaters for his live shows because of the demand) with virtually zero airplay from country radio. Now, that might not exactly be “making it big” or “becoming a star,” but in this musical environment, album sales of 100,000 from even one of those big stars would be nothing to sneeze at.

    And as far as the quote from the dude from CMT goes, I really don’t think anyone from that network has any business getting on their high horse, with all the crap they’ve been peddling the last few years.

  3. Jack says

    The country radio executive’s comments were truly myopic.

    It’s not hard to see that indie country is on the rise.

    And speaking of Sturgill… just wait ’til his next album.


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